A filmmaker I know and don’t exactly love is throwing his annual party, traditionally an excuse to demonstrate the far reaching scope of his wealth and connections. I’ve opted out in the past with dental excuses, fictional deaths in the family, and feigned forgetfulness, but for some reason I trap myself into going this time, and being anal and anxious I’m one of the first to show up.
The venue is some elaborate grotto complete with connecting cave-like chambers, their curving walls made of moist stone, fountains, and winding paths made slippery from condensation. I’m overdressed, or underdressed. I can’t make up my mind. I’m wearing an ill-fitting trench coat, and I could take it off, but I would be one of those people, carrying around an unwieldy bundle the whole night, a physical manifestation of my inner discomfort. I tell myself I’m not staying the whole night. I’m telling myself that I’m allowed to leave once enough people arrive to see report that I was there. Under the coat is something I wouldn’t be caught dead in. The pants are too tight, too trendy maybe. The shirt is awful. The socks don’t match.
The host hasn’t arrived and I don’t really know anyone and have no one to talk to and wouldn’t dream of trying to make conversation, knowing no matter what I might say, I’d only reinforce my agony. I wander the rooms, most of which are empty save for one or two people, standing there with a drink, trying to look as if the walls alone are entertaining. What interesting architecture.
Eventually the rooms start getting closed off. Someone, a minion of the filmmaker – probably a party planner, knowing his income and desire to impress – goes around locking the doors, placing signs on them which read THIS ROOM CLOSED. PLEASE JOIN THE OTHERS ELSEWHERE. We’re being corralled into one of the largest caves, where we can be counted on to create a convincing, if not convivial, din. I stand there for a while trying to smile. A lot of the guests know each other, or know the same people, and, forced to talk, are connecting in predictable fashion. I have nothing to do but drink, but I have no idea which cave hides the bartender, so I measure out my cocktail to make it last, bringing the glass to my mouth frequently without actually sipping.
At some point I can’t bear it, and leave, telling myself I can always come back without my absence being noted any more than my presence. I walk a few blocks to the place I’m staying, the house of an actress I’ve worked with and love. It’s a mansion, baroque in style, with clay tile roofing, large, elaborate iron grates over the windows and around the yard, and dark wood detailing inside. The actress isn’t home but her husband is, and I’m very fond of him too, so it’s embarrassing and distressing when I start breaking all the china, which for some reason is on a conveyor belt along the floor, on its way back to the kitchen after early evening tea time. My trench coat sweeps two teacups and a saucer off track, hurtling them a few feet away. They shatter just as my host enters. He’s one of the best hosts I’ve ever met and assures me they aren’t anything close to heirlooms, which convinces me they’re irreplaceable. I decide that if I’m going to make an ass of myself no matter where I am, it’s best to do it among strangers, and I might as well head back to the grotto.